It was only fitting that Dino Ciccarelli scored the goal that clinched the first Patrick Division championship for the Washington Capitals.
Ciccarelli scored with just 2:48 remaining Sunday to give the Capitals a 3-2 victory over the stubborn New York Islanders at Landover, Md. With the New York Rangers losing to Pittsburgh, the Capitals, in their 15th season, won the title.
Until the Capitals, long a defensive-minded team, acquired Ciccarelli, they seemed destined to finish second for the sixth consecutive season.
Throughout a nine-year career that has been turbulent both on and off the ice, there has been one constant for Ciccarelli: Few NHL players can play offense as well as he does. His emphasis on attack has made the Capitals a winner and a strong contender for the Stanley Cup.
Ciccarelli’s ninth goal since being obtained in a trade with Minnesota three weeks ago, gave the surging Capitals their eighth victory in a row. The shot handcuffed rookie goalie Mark Fitzpatrick, went under his arm and into the net. It appeared to carom off the stick of New York defenseman Gary Nylund.
“I was excited about coming here and I’m more excited about helping them win the division,” Ciccarelli said. “But their goalie was unbelievable. He was robbing guys right and left.”
The Capitals have a 40-26-10 record and have clinched with 90 points. Three times when they finished second they had 100 or more.
Calgary 7, Chicago 5--The Flames scored three times late in the game at Chicago and moved one point ahead of Montreal, 111-110, in the hottest battle remaining in the regular season--the bid for the highest overall point total.
The Blackhawks continued to prolong the only other race remaining, the one for the last playoff spot in the Norris Division. The Blackhawks lead Toronto by two points. Both have three games left.
Pittsburgh 6, New York Rangers 4--The Penguins didn’t just put an end to the Rangers’ hopes of winning the Patrick Division in this game at New York.
For the second game in a row, Mario Lemieux, finally out of his slump, scored the tie-breaking goal. Saturday night against New Jersey, there were only five seconds left when he scored. In this one, he scored on a breakaway early in the last period. Before the finish, he scored into an empty net. The Penguins, with three games left, lead the Rangers by a point, 83-82.
Lemieux has 79 goals, the third-highest for a single season in NHL history. Only Wayne Gretzky, with 92 and 87, has done better.
Vancouver 7, Winnipeg 3--Jim Sandlak scored three goals and Doug Smith two at Vancouver to enable the Canucks to end a three-game losing streak.
Dale Hawerchuk scored his 39th goal for the Jets and has four games in which to score another and reach 40 for the fifth consecutive season.